by Ian Mann
November 25, 2016
Ian Mann enjoys lunchtime jazz at the 606 Club and a personal Festival highlight at the Royal Festival Hall. Performers include the Patchwork Jazz Orchestra, Mark Lockheart and the Jan Garbarek Group
Photograph of Jan Garbarek by Tim Dickeson
EFG London Jazz Festival 2016
Day Three, Sunday 13th November 2016
PATCHWORK JAZZ ORCHESTRA, 606 CLUB, CHELSEA
Lunchtime saw us venturing into new territory with a visit to the 606 Club in Chelsea. It’s a venue that I’ve been wanting to check out for a long time having had good reports from friends about the music, food and ambience at this well regarded jazz bastion. Unfortunately SW10 is a long way from our base in Islington but with our hosts otherwise engaged on this particular weekend a lunchtime show seemed to offer the ideal opportunity to finally find out just what “The Six” is all about.
The 606 is a musician owned establishment with proprietor Steve Rubie combining his career as a restaurateur with that of a professional jazz flautist. The club’s name comes from its original address in the Kings Road but it is has been located in the basement of its current premises in Lots Road since 1988 in a former industrial building close to the old Lots Road power station. The area is undergoing extensive modern development with the exclusive Chelsea Harbour complex just a short walk away.
The 606 has always had a policy of booking British or UK based musicians exclusively and today was no exception with a Festival visit from the Patchwork Jazz Orchestra, a large ensemble featuring some of the UK’s most talented young musicians playing an all original programme of compositions sourced almost entirely from within the group.
As the band set up we enjoyed a well cooked Sunday lunch and soaked up the atmosphere of the place. The reports were accurate, the 606 has a great ambience and the food was excellent. It’s a highly convivial place to enjoy good, live British jazz.
Many, but by no means all, of the PJO members studied at the Royal Academy of Music and several of them were familiar to me from their work with that institution’s Big Band, an aggregation that also proved to be the basis for the acclaimed Troykestra. Although less zany than the Loose Tubes in their youthful heyday the PJO’s brightly coloured “patchwork” shirts, all of them different, gave the band a distinctive visual identity.
With a classic big band line up of five reeds, four trumpets, four trombones, piano, guitar, bass and drums the PJO lined up;
Matthew Herd, Alex Hitchcock, Sam Rapley, Sam Glaser, George Millard – reeds
James Davison, James Copus, Adam Chatterton, Miguel Girody – trumpets & flugels
Tom Green, Tom Dunnett, Jamie Pimenta – trombones
Yusuf Narcin- bass trombone
Rob Luft – guitar
Liam Dunachie – piano
Misha Mullov Abbado – double bass
Scott Chapman – drums
Introduced by Steve Rubie the PJO commenced with Scott Chapman’s tune “Barcarole”, an excellent piece of contemporary large ensemble writing with its colourful textures and rich horn voicings plus a series of compelling solos from (among others) Copus on flugel, Luft on guitar, Rapley on tenor and Millard on baritone.
Mullov Abbado’s enigmatically titled “Hi Rigley” delighted in deep sonorities with the sound of muted trumpets and an inspired dialogue between trumpeter Davison and bass trombonist Narcin.
Herd’s “Complete Short Stories” then featured the stately clarinet of Sam Rapley alongside the trombone of Tom Dunnett plus the composer’s soprano sax. A five man unaccompanied reed chorale also focussed the listener’s attention.
The first ‘outside’ item was trombonist Green’s arrangement of “Endless Stars”, a composition by the American pianist Fred Hersch that was subsequently given a lyric by the English vocalist Norma Winstone. Here complex, interlocking horn lines suddenly burst forth into old style big band lushness prior to solos from Rapley on tenor, Green on trombone and Girody on trumpet.
The first set closed with the prolific Chapman’s Sherlock Holmes inspired “Mind Palace”, a composition loaded with rousing big band charts and a series of fiery solos from Green on trombone, Hitchcock on tenor and Dunachie on piano plus a closing drum feature from the composer. This was potent, intoxicating stuff and ensured that the first half finished on a high note.
There was little let up in the energy levels at the start of the second set with the boisterous New Orleans flavourings of “The Boy Roy” with its vocalised, plunger muted trumpet and trombone sounds. The solos included a rumbustious outing on baritone by Millard plus further features for Chatterton on trumpet plus Hitchcock on tenor.
Dunachie’s “Mr Potter Cakes” was more complex, almost Loose Tubes like at times, and included solos from Herd on alto and Luft, the band’s spokesman, on guitar.
Rapley’s “Promises, Promises” was more reflective, or even ‘serious’ as Luft put it. Herd on alto and Dunnett on trombone were the featured soloists and the piece also featured a more freely structured ‘avant garde’ section incorporating the squalling saxes of Herd and Rapley.
Introducing Mullov Abbado’s “Cross Platform Interchange” Luft revealed that several members of the band were dedicated rail enthusiasts. He rather got derailed with a series of musings on the delights of London transport but the music got the performance back on track with solos from Dunachie at the piano, Glaser on alto sax, Green on trombone and Luft himself on guitar.
The set concluded with an arrangement by absent trombonist Kieran McLeod of the Frank Loesser song “If I Were A Bell” with suitably rousing and exultant solos from Copus, Narcin, Pimenta , Luft and Millard, the last named also entering into a series of exciting exchanges with Copus’ dramatic high register trumpet. The band even threw some Loose Tubes style dance moves into the mix too.
I thoroughly enjoyed the music of the Patchwork Jazz Orchestra. It’s a shame that they haven’t made a recording as yet as this music very much deserves to be documented on disc. In the meantime audiences can check the band out live when they play their next gig at Styx in Tottenham Hale on Saturday 3rd December 2016. Check the band’s website http://www.patchworkjazzorchestra.com for full details.
In closing I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the entire 606 Club experience with the venue scoring highly in terms of food, music and atmosphere. It’s not cheap but it represents good quality and value and overall the venue is a delightful place to listen to jazz. I very much hope to return again next year.
Finally, my thanks to Steve Rubie for the gift of a 606 Club T shirt which will bring back good memories and be worn with much pride.
MARK LOCKHEART, CLORE BALLROOM. SOUTHBANK CENTRE
Returning to the Southbank Centre we managed to catch the last knockings of a performance on the Clore Ballroom Freestage by the youth band (Im)Possibilities and their guest soloist vibraphonist Orphy Robinson. It’s always a pleasure to see Orphy play, if only very briefly.
(Im)Possibilities were followed on the Clore stage by a performance of a major new jazz and orchestral work by saxophonist and composer Mark Lockheart. Titled “Brave World” this six movement suite was performed by musicians of the Trinity Laban Shapeshifter Ensemble, a mix of jazz and classical players, alongside a stellar jazz quintet featuring Lockheart on tenor & soprano saxes, Liam Noble on piano, John Parricelli on guitar and Lockheart’s colleagues from Polar Bear, Tom Herbert (double bass) and a newly shorn Sebastian Rochford (drums). There was also a female alto sax soloist, presumably a Shapeshifter member, whose name I didn’t catch.
The Clore was packed for this performance and there was a palpable sense that this was something of a special ‘event’. The audience was far more attentive than usual in this public space and although I was seated quite a long way from the stage I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of detail I was able to appreciate in the music. Interested onlookers included musicians Jasper Hoiby, Adam Waldmann, Anton Eger and Emilia Martensson.
With the ensemble under the baton of conductor John Ashton Thomas the music was an effective mix of jazz and classical elements and was inspired by Lockheart’s very valid concerns about the state of the modern world. The composer moved freely between tenor and soprano sax and contributed some telling solos as did both Noble and Parricelli plus the mystery alto player who proved to be a good foil for Lockheart. Young trumpeter Louis Dowdeswell plus one of the trombonists also impressed during the second movement.
Each movement had its own distinctive character, the third being relatively freely structured but acquiring a greater formality in the wake of Lockheart’s tenor solo. The fourth was darker and more riff based with Parricelli adding a sustain heavy solo alongside the features for alto and soprano saxes.
The fifth movement placed a greater emphasis on the classical musicians in an ensemble that included a harp and two french horns.
Rochford and Herbert ushered in the final movement whose elegiac, folk tinged melody suggested the influence of Polar Bear. Lockheart has also cited Claus Ogerman, Gil Evans and John Zorn as further sources of inspiration.
I was impressed by Lockheart’s writing and playing and the way in which he merged the various jazz and classical elements. Given the setting in which it was performed I found the whole suite very enjoyable but surely a major work of this magnitude and gravitas should have been premièred in a concert hall and not a foyer. This was music that deserved better.
On a more positive note Lockheart hopes to document “Brave World” on disc in 2017. This is an album release that will be well worth waiting for.
JAN GARBAREK QUARTET, ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL
In a packed out main hall at the Southbank we were treated to a superb performance by the Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek and his quartet.
Garbarek (born 1947) has one of the most distinctive saxophone sounds in jazz and these days is one of the comparative elder statesmen of the music. It’s been a full eight years since I last saw him in concert (as a ‘punter’ at Warwick Arts Centre) and I’d almost forgotten just how exciting his live shows can be. The live album “Dresden”, recorded in 2007 and released by ECM in 2009, offers excellent recorded evidence of this.
Since those days drummer Manu Katche has been replaced by the Indian drummer/percussionist Trilok Gurtu but electric bass specialist Yuri Daniel remains in place alongside long term Garbarek associate Rainer Bruninghaus on piano and keyboards.
Introduced by pianist and broadcaster Julian Joseph the quartet delivered a near two hour show of almost continuous music. I first saw Garbarek perform live in the 1980s but in all that time I’ve never heard him actually speak to an audience. It’s not that he can’t speak the language – I’ve heard him interviewed by Fiona Talkington on Radio 3 and his English is impeccable- but his reticence has somehow become part of his mystique, reinforcing the popular image of the glacial iceman from the Norwegian fjords.
Coldness is a criticism that has been levelled at Garbarek both live and on record fairly consistently over the years but in recent times it’s a complaint that has become less and less relevant. There was a warmth and humanity about tonight’s performance that hasn’t always been associated with Garbarek. As the leader happily clapped along to the infectious grooves laid down by Daniel and Gurtu there was a real joyousness about his demeanour. Hell, he even cracked a smile.
The performance itself consisted of around five lengthy ensemble passages, these including “Molde Canticle”, “Mediaeval” and Garbarek’s arrangement of Steve Winwood’s “Had To Cry Today”, punctuated by a series of dazzling solos and individual set pieces. There are doubtless those that would claim that it was all a bit too superficial and and overly reliant on ‘smoke and mirrors’ but the sheer joyousness of the performances and the utter brilliance of the playing ultimately undermined such cavils.
I didn’t recognise every piece that was played but Garbarek started out in familiar territory with the enduring “Molde Canticle” from his classic 1990 album “I Took Up The Runes”. The memorable melody showcased the echoed ‘cry’ of Garbarek’s soprano and the Eberhard Weber like tones of Daniel’s bass as the Brazilian born musician approximated the distinctive sound of his predecessor in a duet with the leader. Bruninghaus then moved from electric to grand piano for his solo but the music was soon to take a different turn as Daniel and Gurtu, now playing kit drums, set up a surprisingly funky groove that elicited a similarly surprising response from Garbarek on powerfully earthy tenor. Gurtu then undertook a dazzling circumnavigation of his vast percussive set up, gravitating from kit drums to tabla before a final group collective statement of the grand theme.
The second section began with the shimmer of Bruninghaus’ keyboards but was most notable for Daniel’s bravura bass feature, the other musicians leaving the stage during a virtuoso display that included slap bass techniques as Daniel stamped his own musical personality on the proceedings. Garbarek’s tone on soprano combined North African influences with Western style lyricism but Gurtu’s stunning tabla feature uprooted the music and transported it to the Indian sub continent as he combined phenomenal finger strength, flexibility and stamina with an innate musicality. Garbarek responded to this with a soprano feature that combined the familiar Nordic cry with more obvious Indian elements in an echo of his “Ragas and Sagas” album.
Bruninghaus’ piano solo formed a link into the next section which began in almost ballad mode with Garbarek’s warm toned tenor sax. But in this glittering musical mosaic no mood remained fixed for long and another piano passage from Bruninghaus provided the segue into some furious unison riffing followed by the urgent whinny of Garbarek’s soprano above Daniel’s buoyant bass rhythms.
Then it was the turn of Daniel and Bruninghaus to exchange ideas, the pair throwing a surprising amount of humour into the process with their staccato motifs. Gurtu than took over the reins with a further drum feature before the section climaxed with a stunning solo piano extravaganza from Bruninghaus that combined classical precision with an improviser’s instinct. It was uncharacteristically percussive and vibrant and included a kind of stride piano pastiche plus a dazzling hammered climax including some ‘under the lid’ plucking and scraping. The audience gave him an equally thunderous reception. It was almost a case of “Rainer steals the show”.
The gentle sound of Garbarek’s breathy tenor sax brought things back down to earth before he stepped back and passed the baton to Bruninghaus and Daniel, the leader clearly enjoying their intimate electric bass and electric piano interplay as much as the audience did.
Following this gentle interlude we went into the final stretch with a solo piano introduction leading to Garbarek’s haunting theme statement on tenor sax, his playing brooding but melodic as he began to to dig deeper, exposing his Coltrane-esque roots with Gurtu on kit drums cast in the role of Elvin Jones. This was followed by an astonishing drum and percussion feature from the irrepressible Gurtu that utilised virtually all of the implements in his vast percussive arsenal in addition to his distinctive ‘konnakol’ vocal percussion. We heard tablas, shakers, bird calls, found percussive items such as a hub cap, the sound of a cymbal absorbed in a water bucket and more. The flamboyance and showmanship plus some of the techniques deployed reminded me of the late Brazilian percussionist/vocalist Nana Vasconcelos whose playing once graced earlier editions of the Garbarek group. But Gurtu brought a distinct Indian presence to the music with tablas replacing Vasconcelos’ berimbau and if anything he proved to be even more of a showman as he encouraged the audience to clap along. I’ve never seen that before at a Garbarek show and Jan himself seemed to revel in it, eventually returning to the mic himself wielding a wooden flute to play an enchanting duet with Gurtu. There was humour too with Gurtu slapping his head in time with the rhythms that he had created. Garbarek’s never been exactly noted for being a barrel of laughs but with this group he seems to have finally learned how to have fun, and in a highly democratic, and often fiercely interactive unit, positively encourages his colleagues to do the same.
The reward for this marathon display of outstanding individual and collective musicianship was a 100% standing ovation from a delighted capacity audience and a deserved encore with Garbarek again toting his tenor. This was a bonus to simply enjoy rather than attempting to take comprehensive notes. So I can’t tell you much about the encore, other than it was at least the equal of what had gone before.
I enjoyed this performance just as much as I did that Warwick show back in 2008 and for me it was a personal Festival highlight and despite the occasional dissenting voice I’m certain that a large percentage of the huge Festival Hall audience felt exactly the same way. As he approaches three score years and ten Jan Garbarek is still a musical force to be reckoned with.
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